When it comes to skincare, the Pascua Yaquis are a people of the Sonoran desert with an advantage—they have hundreds of years of experience extracting medicinal wisdom and healing from a beautiful, yet harshly hot, dry, often windy and dusty ecosystem.
“Cleansing and healing are important values in our culture,” confirmed Amalia Reyes, a tribal member and fluent Yaqui speaker, who serves as the Escalante Library Supervisor. “As a complement to our health service, we have healers who specialize in traditional practices with knowledge about the area’s aboriginal plants and herbs. Beauty’s important for our people—looking good, smelling good.”
At the Hiapsi Spa at the tribe’s Casino Del Sol resort, the Yaquis generously share the beauty aids they’ve relied upon to mediate the harshest elements of living in the desert—the sun, which shines an average of 267 days a year, temperatures that climb to the triple digits, and extreme aridity—the Tucson area receives less than 12 inches of rainfall per year. In such an environment it requires a certain diligence to keep one’s skin protected, cleansed and moisturized, and the body as a whole, hydrated, and in balance.
“We’re 15 feet away from the land,” explained receptionist Orion Noriega, as he pointed outside the spa’s entrance. “Natural healing, everyone believes in that in this culture.”
Noriega is one of hundreds of tribal members employed by the resort.
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Two gentle and calming treatments at Casino del Sol’s Hiapsi Spa are especially designed to maximize the infusion of moisture into the skin—the Bio-Energetic Fusion Facial and the Native American Herbal Therapy. The 50-minute facial is described in the spa’s menu of services relies on “pumpkin enzymes to help clear skin of cellular build-up while drawing out impurities and improving circulation.” A scalp massage with herb-infused oils and aromatherapy are essential modalities in this treatment.
“Copal, for instance, is a resin from local tree sap that we burn as a cleanse in the facial room to get negative energy out,” Noriega explained. “Rosemary is also used, cypress and locally harvested sage too. The herbs are used in steaming, masking and moisturizing.”
At present all of the receptionists at the spa at Casino Del Sol are tribal members, as is one of the facialists and manicurists. Noriega, 21, is working towards his accreditation as an esthetician.
Hiapsi means love and soul in Yaqui language, concepts that are designed right into the 25-minute Native American Herbal Therapy treatment. From the spa services menu: “Warm muslin sheets are soaked in Native American healing herbs and then cocooned around the body to de-stress and draw out impurities, while a therapist gives you a head and neck massage.”
“The recipe for the herbal tea in which the sheets are soaked includes rosemary and lemon balm among many other herbs,” Noriega said. “A medicine man from Mexico was consulted in its creation.”
The tribe spans the border into Mexico and tribal members routinely go back and forth for ceremonies, family visits and business matters.
The spa offers a full range of services—massages, scrubs, treatments, enhancements. Reading the enticing descriptions is part of the fun—whirlpools, hot stones, mud and more. Spa guests have access to the Oasis Pool, a palm tree lined swimming pool where lounging, reading and relaxing are encouraged.
Hiapsi has a small shop with just a few select items for sale—smaller versions of the brightly colored, hand-crafted crepe paper flowers, which the Yaquis use to festoon churches for Easter. These smaller ones are meant to be decorations for the table, or worn as personal adornments. There’s pretty and delicate silver and beaded jewelry made by tribal members, a few products from the skincare lines they use—Fleur’s and Phytomer—as well as their full line of Hiapsi Spa products, including apparel.
Hiapsi is located in Casino Del Sol, a 2017 recipient of four-stars from the Forbes Travel Guide for the fifth consecutive year.